Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner initiated an audit of the Sports and Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County with a letter to County Executive Fitzgerald and the SEA on October 17, 2014. Following a month’s delay by the County Administration and the SEA upon her requests to meet regarding this audit, Controller Wagner extended an additional courtesy for a meeting to occur by the Thanksgiving holiday.
During that meeting on November 26th, the SEA agreed that Controller Wagner’s specific requests were reasonable and requested one week to obtain board approval. The SEA and County also agreed that on Thursday, Dec. 4th at 8:3am, all parties would reconvene in order to discuss the specific documents that the Authority and the County would provide to the Controller's office.
However, shortly after 3:00pm on Wednesday, December 3rd, the County Solicitor and the SEA's attorney sent separate correspondence challenging the Controller's authority to conduct the audit. As such, they informed the Controller's Office that they would not be attending the meeting scheduled to occur on the following morning, contrary to the previous agreement by all parties to meet on Thursday, December 4th.
“I am disappointed in the County and the SEA's position to oppose this audit. However, I stand firm in my authority and responsibility as Controller to examine the use of taxpayer funds, which undoubtedly includes tickets for events that occur at our publicly owned venues,” said Wagner.
Additionally, Controller Wagner is indicating her intention to provide one more opportunity for cooperation. Today, Controller Wagner will formally request to address the SEA board on December 11th at their regularly scheduled meeting. If the request is denied, Wagner is prepared to make remarks during the public comment section of the meeting.
The SEA was last audited in 2008 by then-Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty, following construction failures at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Wagner indicated that it is unclear why the SEA and County would accept the Controller's jurisdiction to audit the SEA previously, but now oppose precedent.
“I remain optimistic that cooler heads will prevail and that the Executive and the SEA will both see that it is in the public’s best interest to provide my office with records pertaining to the use of free tickets,” Wagner said.
The Allegheny County Controller is empowered to compel cooperation for audits of taxpayer dollars, which could include the issuance of subpoenas and/or withholding county funds.
The Controller’s Office is currently auditing a wide range of county entities and functions including the Allegheny County Airport Authority, the Allegheny County Jail and usage of the county’s vehicle fleet.